Lakeview Road is open! Charlotte Water (CLTWater) recently removed the closure and traffic measures along Statesville Road near Lakeview Road, as crews worked on a large water main opening along the roadway.
The work, related to the Water Transmission Mains Improvement & Repairs (WTMIR) Program, began Monday, July 24, and lasted a couple weeks. While traffic measures like detours and lane closures are sometimes frustrating, they are necessary for the safety of work crews and the public. In this case, the water main work happened parallel to other construction activities in the area. Thus, protecting people as well as the project was a priority.
Planning for any construction project while continuing to maintain access for nearby businesses, residents and motorists, can be complicated. It also takes a team effort. Before the project work begins, CLTWater collaborates closely with several different groups, such as state and city partners like NCDOT, CDOT, and other construction projects, to compare traffic plans and discuss ways to mitigate potential impacts as best as possible. This is all part of the important work CLTWater continues to do daily to provide clean, safe and reliable water across the Charlotte region.
Protecting and strengthening the CLTWater system is an important part of the daily work crews do. In the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, Charlotte Water designated millions of dollars towards the systemwide repairs and improvements, designed to update some of the oldest infrastructure throughout the system.
In 2015, CLTWater completed a Water Transmission Mains Assessment, which evaluated some high-risk pipe composition across the water system that could need replacement. Transmission mains are the highways of water distribution; they are large pipes that convey water from pump stations or treatment plants to the neighbor distribution water lines. Since 2019, additional assessments identified various improvements needed to optimize the function and resiliency of the existing water transmission system.
The WTMIR Program is a combination of various replacement and installation projects across the water system, grouped under an umbrella of work designed to improve the water system. The Program is broken down into Zone Areas throughout the CLTWater service area. Each Zone Area will consist of various design and construction projects, which may or may not occur simultaneously.
The importance of the WTMIR Program is to ensure water continues to flow to customers and reduces future emergency repairs that lead to unplanned water outages and traffic disruption.
Work has already been completed in several areas along Old Statesville Road, with upcoming work along Peachtree Rd, Oakdale Rd and other areas expected later this year.
Charlotte is a rapidly growing city, in an equally rapidly expanding region. Investments in vital resources and infrastructure will not only support that growth but allow everyone to have a quality of life that is only capable through access to a safe, clean and reliable water system. Each of the 1,200 Charlotte Water system employees work hard to support that vision. Charlotte Water does this by increasing capacity through improvement and enhancement projects and by working 24/7/365 to maintain, repair and replace foundational infrastructure across the region.
Why are Water Rates Increasing?
Charlotte Water is legally required to operate as a “cost-of-service provider.” This means, as a utility, CLTWater must strictly use fees and rates to support, maintainand grow the water system. That requires us to operate as good water stewards and as a business operation that does not make a profit, but also can not legally operate at a loss.
Charlotte Water does not use property tax or sales tax to operate or fund capital improvements. The Charlotte Water system is supported entirely by water and sewer rates and fees paid by customers. Each dollar in rates has a specific purpose in how it goes to work in the water system. These rates allow Charlotte Water to:
Provide clean, safe and reliable drinking water
Maintain more than 9,000 miles of water and wastewater pipes
Rehabilitate, replace, and invest in aging infrastructure
Exceed regulatory requirements
Support regional growth
Safely transport and treat wastewater
To achieve this, each year, Charlotte Water systematically evaluates its existing infrastructure, upcoming capital needs (such as capacity), and other industry and economic variables. This helps determine if a rate adjustment is necessary. Potential adjustments are presented to the City Council, explaining how each dollar will be used and where it will go. If City Council approves, the new rates typically go into effect in July of that year. “FY,” or fiscal year, is identified as July of the current year into June of the following year.
For FY2024, (July 2023- June 2024) Charlotte Water rates will increase an average of 4.25% , which equals approximately a $3.10monthly increase for average Charlotte Water residential customer bills.
To learn more about the 2024 rates and fees, visit our webpage.
How are Rate Adjustments Decided/Calculated?
CLTWater uses a nationally-recognized rate consultant to evaluate and audit our rate model. This complex model uses many variables, such as regulatory, personnel, industry costs, etc., to create a ten-year projection.
Capital Improvement Plan
A large part of rates are used towards investing and funding Charlotte Water’s Capital Improvement Projects (CIP). Each year, CLTWater identifies and prioritizes several projects that are needed within a five-year period. Projects selected must meet certain requirements, such as fulfilling capacity needs, supporting future development, or improving the quality of life for the community.
The goal of the CIP is to:
Line up with CLTWater’s Mission and Vision to serve customers
Identify the right projects
Identify the funding needs
Maintain consistent annual funding levels
Ensure financial viability
Balance our goals against supporting municipal vision plans, economic development and regulatory requirements
For the fiscal year 2024-2028, CLTWater plans to invest $2.63 Billionback into the community’s utility. The investment can be broken down into key groups:
Capacity for Growth $1.5B to expand and upsize pipes and plants to maintain service for a growing community
Rehab and Replacement $645M to replace some of the oldest infrastructure
Regulatory Requirements $279M to complete projects related to new state or federal regulations
Commitments to Public Projects $115M to relocate pipes before NCDOT, City of Charlotte, or town-funded projects
Utility Support $70M towards advancement in technology, security and updates to current facilities
Lawsuit Settlement Update
Charlotte Water previously shared with media and customers that a recent lawsuit settlement would impact the CIP program and possibly lead to a higher-than-normal rate adjustment in July. (You can learn more by reading the blog article here.)
Since January 2023, Charlotte Water restructured the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to instead absorb the lawsuit damages. This means the settlement costs will not be passed along to customers as previously proposed.
FY 24 Industrial Sewer Rates
CLTWater recently worked with a utility consulting firm to complete a rate study and better understand our rates and cost of treatment. During the evaluation, we learned some of the industrial sewer rates had not been updated since 2011. This meant a rate recovery was needed for:
increased costs of treatment
treatment plant improvements
operational costs and program costs
Industrial Fees are different than regular customer sewer rates because industries usually have different/stronger compositions of certain chemicals. Treatment plants are designed and regulated for domestic (residential) strength wastewater.
Each industry/business is unique in its usage and discharge. For most commercial and utility users, your bill is calculated based on how much water you use and your wastewater composition. In general, the more you use, the more you pay. For monitored industries, the higher the concentration of chemical oxygen demand (COD), total suspended solids (TSS) or ammonia discharged, the more you will pay.
Non-monitored industries, e.g., breweries and restaurants, incur the high strength volume charge.
To mitigate the impact of the rate recovery, rates are proposed to increase in three phases:
July 1, 2023
January 1, 2024
Incremental increases annually expected to start July 1, 2024
To learn more about the different industrial and commercial rates, view these one-pagers below.
Charlotte Water Cares
CLTWater is always looking for ways to connect customers to resources and available financial aid programs. We work closely with several community partners, including Crisis Assistance and the Department of Social Services, to connect residents to resources. Learn more about our “Dream Team” by reading our blog article.
Financial assistance is available for families in need. Charlotte Water encourages customers to contact 3-1-1 or visit charlottewater.org to learn more about the many financial assistance programs available.
On December 3rd, the EPA announced that Charlotte Water’s $169 million Mallard Creek Sewer Basin Wastewater Collection and Treatment Improvements program achieved one of 39 new invitations to the competitive Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans program.
Charlotte Water is excited and proud to apply for funding under the EPA’s WIFIA program. Funding for Charlotte Water projects allows us to leverage rate payer fees to make critical improvements to our community’s aging infrastructure.
The EPA’s WIFIA program helps empower borrowers across the United States to achieve their infrastructure improvement goals through financial tools targeted at keeping rates affordable for large projects.
The Mallard Creek Sewer Basin Wastewater Collection and Treatment Improvements program is part of Charlotte Water’s five-year, $1.7 billion capital plan. This plan is part of the City’s Community Investment Program, or CIP, which appropriates dollars from specific funding sources for capital, or construction and improvement projects. Charlotte Water’s CIP projects place Charlotte in a position to ensure local and regional growth. To learn more about Community Investment, please see our webpage.
Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and Improvements
Charlotte Water plans to make infrastructure improvements to add capacity to the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant over the next few years. The plant was built in 1979 and handles wastewater treatment for residents and businesses in the Mallard Creek and Back Creek basins.
In the past few years, the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant has operated close to its allowed limit and is expected to exceed it by 2021. This is due to increased growth in the area aligned with the extension of the Blue Line from Uptown Charlotte to UNC Charlotte.
This project will increase the allowed limit to phased levels of expansion, expected to accommodate current and expected growth over the next three to 12 years. Expanding the capacity is critical in order to accommodate development in the area. Stay tuned about this and other capital improvement projects on our projects page.
Before cranes build the next skyscraper or apartment complex, developers must reach out to Charlotte Water to see if the wastewater infrastructure has the capacity for the increase in the-ahem-flow.
From the pipes that carry your wastewater to the treatment plants, to the plants themselves, they all have a specific amount of wastewater that they can hold and treat before the system gets overwhelmed. If a building with say 600 new units wants to be developed but our pipes couldn’t handle the extra waste then development halts until the capacity issue is resolved. This delay in construction is not good for business or the growth of our city, so that is where our Capacity Assurance Program comes in. Our highly trained engineers, who take projected growth and future developments into consideration, review the capacity of our entire system. In calendar year 2018 Charlotte Water received 391 separate requests, it is anticipated that there will be more than 600 requests by the end of 2019.
This isn’t something that we just eyeball, there is a science to it. We anticipate a specific number of gallons of wastewater will be produced from each particular type of development, as you can see below:
190 gallons per day for each dwelling unit for single-family residential areas (including townhouses).
135 gallons per day for each multi-family residential unit.
25 gallons per employee/shift for office space.
This information helps our engineers know whether a new or redeveloped site can handle the increase in wastewater and respond appropriately to each developers request for access to the wastewater system. A major part of our capital budget, which is funded through water and sewer rates, goes towards increasing the capacity of our system.
Our staff works hard to make sure we anticipate growth and perform projects to increase capacity before development starts. Our recent wastewater project near Barringer Drive is a great example of upsizing pipes to fit new developments.
“This project is a success story,” said Angela Lee, Director of Charlotte Water. “We were going to clean and install a new liner in the pipe. Before we started, the service area started to redevelop and we were able to quickly change course and upsize the pipe before major private developments started building vertically. This project is one of many that show our passion to serve the public and the ability to deliver on-time commitments to the community.”
The original wastewater pipes were eight to ten inches in diameter, the new pipes are now 18 or 24 inches in diameter. The total cost of the project was $2.5 million.
“While we installed the wastewater pipe, private developers were able to start their construction as well. Our new pipe was in service before the developments were completed.”
Charlotte Water has made sure the Capacity Assurance Program aligns with the development time frame from conception to completion to support rather than impede the growth of Charlotte.
For more information about other projects being done throughout Mecklenburg County to increase capacity, and improve water quality and reliability visit our website.